1884 - James Anthony Froude
St. Huberts Vineyard
Coldstream, Yarra Valley, Victoria
While we were resting at Mount Macedon, Mr. Gillies had arranged another expedition for us to see a vineyard at a place called St. Hubert's, where the only entirely successful attempt to grow fine Australian wine had been carried out, after many difficulties, by a Mr. Castella, a Swiss Catholic gentleman from Neufchatel. The visit was to be partly on our account, that we might see what Victorian energy could do besides raising gold. It was also official, for Sir Henry Loch was to go with us as a recognition of Mr. Castella's merits to the colony. Australian wines had failed hitherto, as they had failed at the Cape, either from excess of sugar in the grapes, or from an earthy flavour :contracted from the soil. The hock which we had tasted at Adelaide had been palatable but commonplace. Only experiments protracted through generations can determine in in what situations wine deserving the name can be produced. The flavour of a grape tells you nothing of the final flavour of the fermented juices. The same vines grown in two adjoining fields, where the stratification or the aspect is different, yield completely different results.
The wine, too, must be kept for several years before the flavour into which it will ripen is defined. The best, therefore, which can be attained in a new country is tentative and imperfect.
Mr. Castella, however, had received honourable recognition from the best European authorities at the Sydney Exhibition for his hocks and clarets. The Governor was to go over his manufactory and congratulate him on his triumph.
St. Hubert's was fifty miles from Melbourne, in the valley of the Yarra. The blue satin railway carriage took us to the nearest Station. There we clambered upon an old-fashioned four-horse coach, and after a dusty drive of miles we reached a large, roomy, straggling house, built with attempts at ornamental architecture, high-gables roofs, a central tower with a flying outside staircase and gallery, the inevitable deep verandahs, and, as Mr. Castella’s guests were often numerous, detached rooms, run up with planks, scattered in the shrubberies. The Yarra wound invisibly between deep banks across the plains in front of the windows. Behind it, far off, was a high range of mountains, from which columns of smoke were rising in half a dozen directions, from forest bush-fires; either lighted on purpose to clear the ground, or the careless work of woodcutters or wandering natives. The fields immediately were the most brilliant green. The vines were all in full leaf. There were three hundred acres of them standing in rows, and staked liked raspberry bushes, each bush powdered with sulphur, and smelling strongly of it. Our host himself was a vigorous, hale-looking man of sixty upwards, with lively French features, light grey merry eyes with a touch of melancholy at the bottom of them – to be recognised at once as an original person well worth attention. He was an artist, I found, as well as a vine-grower. His rooms were hung with clever Australian landscape oils, his own work in the idle season. He had come to the colony thirty years ago, when Australia was the land of promise to so many ardent European spirits who had been dispersed by the collapse of the revolutions. After many ups and downs of fortune he had married a Sydney lady, very handsome still, and moderately rich. She would have been very rich, I believe, if she had pleased her friends better in the choice of a husband, but she showed no signs of being discontented with her lot, as, indeed, so far as I could judge, she had no cause to be …
We were walked over the estate under our umbrellas, for the sun was blazing down upon us. We saw the vines growing, the presses, the rows of hogsheads in the cellars, the vats in which the grapes were trodden. I learnt here, as a fact new to me, that if fine wine is wanted, the human foot is still in requisition. Machinery crushes the grape-stones and taints the flavour. We had to taste from various casks, and profess to appreciate the differences, which we none of us could; for the palates of the uninitiated soon lose the power to discriminate. Mr. C., however, offered to supply us with what seemed as good as we could desire, in any quantity, at twenty-five Shillings a dozen, and so far as I can tell, I could be contented to drink nothing better, if I was never to have worse.
Froude, James Anthony
Oceana Or England and Her Colonies